An Obituary for Truth

Posted January 30, 2017 in Philosophy

Truth, one of mankind’s guiding lights for centuries, died in a vicious mob attack instigated by Comfort, Apathy, Dogma, Self-Interest, and Entertainment. She was a pillar of the community, with a glorious history of influence throughout most of our cultural development. She enjoyed nature, science, and spending time with anyone who sought her out. Her tireless efforts to help mankind become better resulted in many of our greatest achievements: the scientific method, logic, mathematics, and physics just for starters. Her guidance led to many great social and political moments: the first person on the moon; equal rights initiatives for women, racial and religious minorities, and the LGBTQUIA community; the Hubble telescope and how it expanded our view of the universe; medical advances too numerous to mention; the discovery of gravitational waves; and many, many more. It is hard to imagine what our world would look like had we lived without her influence. She was loved by many. Eventually, she will be missed by all.

She was preceded in death by her seven children: Justice, Equality, Love, Empathy, Compassion, Honesty, and Integrity. Many of her grandchildren passed on before her as well, including Fairness, Civility, Curiosity, Humility, Beauty, Freedom, and Selflessness. It is unknown if she has any family that have survived.

Services will be held at a location to be determined. Thus far, no religious or political institution has been found that can stand her presence, even in death. Check back to this page for updates.

A Eulogy for Truth

Posted January 29, 2017 in Philosophy

Ah, Truth. I knew her well.

Well, as well as anyone could know her, I suppose. From my earliest memories, I can see her there in the background – smiling, laughing as I played my childhood games, gently guiding as I gazed in wonder at the world around me and tried to take it all in. She was always there, I suppose, even when I could not see her. She had this way of following me around, not in a threatening way, but usually supportive and encouraging. She was the big sister I never had. I clung to her in my darkest hours, crying at whatever hurt I had endured or atrocity I had witnessed. But she did not baby me – oh no sir! When I was out of line, I could not escape her penetrating gaze, and she would nag me and nag me until I finally admitted I was wrong and made the necessary changes in my life and behavior. (Even as I stand here, reading this prepared eulogy, it’s as though I can still hear her penetrating voice. Oh how I miss her!) She could be blunt and harsh at times, but I knew I could trust her stings – you know, the wounds of a friend and all that jazz. And trust her I did – more than life itself.

At one point, if you can believe it, she was one of the most well-respected matrons in our community! It may be hard for some of you here today to remember, but Continue reading A Eulogy for Truth

In Memory of Truth and Those Who Sought It

Posted January 25, 2017 in Philosophy

If it is unthinkable to you that your current worldview might be wrong, then you are not a lover of Truth. What you love is Dogma masquerading as Truth. Truth seeks out its own errors and rejoices when inaccuracies are discovered. It does not try to hide, obfuscate, or twist facts to make them fit the current belief system, but rather remains flexible, able to take in new information and adjust to meet the implications. Truth does not require blind obedience to any source of authority, nor does it pay homage to celebrity or tradition. Truth always begins with “Based on the best available information” and ends with “but I am probably wrong on some level.”

It has been said that of Faith, Hope, and Love, the greatest of these is Love. I can accept that claim. However, much greater than all of these combined is Truth. Truth has the power to obliterate Faith and control Hope. Without it, Love is nothing but a mirage. And this is why so many fear it and work so hard to fight it. If Truth can be defeated, or if efforts to discover Truth can be redirected towards Dogma, then we can remain blind. In this way, the power of Truth over Faith, Hope, and Love can be nullified.

If we prefer Faith over Truth, we can remain certain in our correctness. If we prefer Hope over Truth, we never have to face harsh realities. If Love of anything or anyone wins out over Truth, then we can continue to believe in our own false fairy tale. Dogma is comfortable. Dogma is known. Dogma lets us believe as we want with an illusion of zero consequences.

Dogma is the comforting voice of the pet owner as the animal is put to sleep. Dogma is the promise of a meal to a hungry rodent in the form of bait on a mouse trap. Dogma is the sweet, tangy, and refreshing taste of Kool-Aid infused with cyanide on a hot summer day. Dogma is the loving embrace of a husband as he comforts his spouse and apologizes for the drunken beating the night before. And someday, Dogma will kill us all if it can, if we let it. It will slip the blade between our ribs and watch us bleed. It will initiate a nuclear war as the only viable option. It will starve innocent children and allow them to suffer unimaginable torture. It will do all of these things,  all the while comforting and holding us and telling us everything is going to be OK and the worst will never happen, apologizing when it does, and promising once again that this will be the last time. And at some point, that statement will be true because our culture will die and neither Dogma nor Truth, nor Faith, Hope, or Love will have a place in our world. Dogma, indeed, conquers all if we let it.

But only if we let it. The true power of Dogma lies in our choice to prefer it over Truth. May we choose wisely.

To Life

Posted February 16, 2016 in Misc

The following is a poem I first encountered some 15 years ago, a photocopy of a newspaper clipping taped to the wall of a library. Over the years it has popped into mind from time to time but I have never been able to find it – until now, in the age of digital scanning and text recognition.

The author is Richard Wightman who evidently wrote several times for Success Magazine in the early 1900’s (you can find more of his writings via the Library of Congress). Wightman was an interesting fellow. In 1913 he was married to Patricia Margaret Street by a Unitarian pastor, Rev. Loren MacDonald. Wightman was a Christian, though both his writings and his choice of a Unitarian pastor show him to be somewhat progressive, especially for his time. He was also attracted to the profound more than the frivolous. For instance, Richard and Patricia were married at the grave site of Ralph Waldo Emerson, their ceremony held in Sleepy Hollow cemetery as a show of their mutual appreciation for the poet.

Below is one of Wightman’s writings, the poem I first saw 15 years ago. I found a copy in the April 9, 1910 edition of The Deseret News, a Utah newspaper. It was originally printed in Success Magazine.

Title Unknown

To lift, athirst, the brimming Glass of life and drain it, dregs and all, with smack of smiling lip and slap of knee;

To bend above the Stream of Trade and wrest from it my gold, clean-handed, zestfully, as one who takes equivalents – not more – for what he gives;

To hear, attent, the silent cry of those who lack, dividing food and faggots and the couraged word;

To look well to my sowing, knowing sure that each small seed, by law Immutable, begets its kind – and multiplied at that;

To shrine my Woman high and touch her flesh with prayer as well as passion;

To find within the eyes of children that fine light which guides the man to simpler ways again and nestles him within the arms of this old earth’s vast motherhood;

To search for peace within the lily-bell or ‘neath the verdant moss by forest ways, and, searching, find a fuller mere than e’er was dreamed or guessed;

To hail my friend with frankness-palm to palm and eye to eye, with merge of heart and hope until we twain are one and gianted for battle.

To think things out in my own way and blast a doctrine, when it bars my path, with reverent ruthlessness.

To take my God wherever I may find him – in the meetinghouse or in the meadow, or where the liners cleave the crests and fling their foam afar

To know that Jesus lived for me to show me how to live, and died for me to show me how to die, should they assail my truth as they did his;

To hold that love is lawful, all of it, or else it be not love, but something less;

That, sirs, seems good to me and right and fair, and by the grace of each day’s sun, and verve of starry nights, I face my years with glee as one who dies not, but lives always.

By Richard Wightman

Donald Trump: Hillary’s Best Recruiter

Posted January 12, 2016 in Politics

There is a particular conspiracy theory that has been circulating the internet for the better part of six months. The theory essentially boils down to this: Donald Trump is a plant of the Hillary Clinton campaign. He is running in the presidential race so as to insure a Clinton victory. While it may sound insane, plenty of people are taking this idea seriously. It has even been discussed in such mainstream media as Slate, the Washington Post, and the BBC.  Jeb Bush recently suggested the same idea in a tweet, although that may be written off as the desperate flailings of a drowning political career more than anything. Continue reading Donald Trump: Hillary’s Best Recruiter

Bernie on Race

Posted January 07, 2016 in Politics

Everyone is familiar with Black Lives Matter and most people are aware that Bernie is a supporter of the movement. Bernie’s history with Black Lives Matter has been rocky at times, beginning with the campaign rally disrupted by Black Lives Matter demonstrators. In the blowback following that event, Bernie met with leaders of the movement to discuss the issues of greatest concern to black Americans. Since that meeting, Bernie has repeatedly given unapologetic support to their concerns. This has not been without criticism. During the first Democratic party debate, candidates were asked, “Do black lives matter, or do all lives matter?” Sanders responded unequivocally, “black lives matter.” He continued with a strongly worded position that institutional racism needs to be addressed at all levels. His support received expected opposition from the usual suspects, with Donald Trump taking the all-too-common white position that those saying Black lives matter are ignoring all others.

Continue reading Bernie on Race

The True Meaning of Christmas (and Why I Embrace It as an Atheist)

Posted November 30, 2015 in Atheist Life

December 25th is a day of celebration of faith. It is marked as the birthday of the Sun in both Vainakh (Malkh) and Roman (Dies Natalis Solis Invicti) mythologies. Other religious holidays that pass through today include Yule (originally a Pagan religious festival), Pancha Ganapati (a festival to honor Lord Ganesha by Hindus), and of course Christmas.

Christmas is actually a very culturally and spiritually intertwined holiday. While the original purpose of Christmas was to celebrate the birth of Jesus, the day was picked as a way to pull in Pagan converts by conscripting *their* religious celebrations already going on that day. Choosing the day of the “birth of the Unconquerable Sun god” as the day to celebrate the birth of the Son of God was no coincidence. And it proved an effective marketing strategy, even if not an entirely spiritually-focused one. Much of what we do to celebrate Christmas comes from very non-Christian roots as well: Christmas trees come from the Yuletide Pagan tradition. Kissing under Mistletoe was a way to remember Baldur, grandson of Thor in Norse religions. Poinsettias were favored for their religious significance by the Aztecs. Even the giving of lavish gifts – something the “sell all you have to give to the poor” Jesus might have frowned on – comes from the various Pagan holidays originally celebrated this time of year. Continue reading The True Meaning of Christmas (and Why I Embrace It as an Atheist)

“Pragmatic” Democrats Must Vote for Bernie

Posted November 05, 2015 in Politics

*Note: this is Part One of a multi-part discussion.

 

“I really like Bernie Sanders, but I’m voting for Hillary. We’ve got to be pragmatic; we can’t afford to lose the White House.”

This is the sentiment that I’ve heard innumerable times from party-line Democrats in the few months since the Presidential campaign has gotten underway. Every time that I encounter this silly notion, I want to rip my hair out. Although I understand the general logic of it, the idea that Hillary Clinton is the pragmatic choice is as ridiculous as it is unfounded.

The idea behind this sentiment is that Sanders cannot win a majority of support from the country at large, while Clinton can. In order to consider the accuracy of this premise, we have to look at what it takes to win a general election. We then have to decide which candidate better demonstrates those abilities. Continue reading “Pragmatic” Democrats Must Vote for Bernie

Why “I’m Possibly Wrong” Isn’t Good Enough

Posted October 27, 2015 in Philosophy

When I presented my talk at Seekerfest STL 2015, I got a lot of pushback for phrasing one of my last points as “Start from the standpoint that you are probably wrong.” One of those individuals was none other than Matt Dillahunty, who after my talk came up to me and said something along the lines of, “You should change that line to ‘possibly wrong’ instead of probably. If you think you are probably wrong, you should just go ahead and change your position.”

Being who I am, and who Matt is, I took this advice to heart and pondered it from just about every angle I could think of. And, going where even atheist angels fear to tread, I think Matt is dead wrong on this one, as were the other folks for whom this phrasing was uncomfortable. In this post, I’m going to explain why a starting point of “I am possibly wrong” is not nearly good enough if one wants to rid themselves of delusional thinking from both a semantic/pedantic standpoint, as well as a practical/strategic standpoint. And then the Internet is free to step in and give me the whupping I most assuredly deserve, if I’m wrong.  ;)

Continue reading Why “I’m Possibly Wrong” Isn’t Good Enough

The Psychology of Belief: Hope vs. Reality

Posted October 22, 2015 in Philosophy, Uncategorized

In my last post I discussed how delusional beliefs form and why they’re so easy to fall into. It turns out that the belief that we are immune to delusional thinking is a critical component for delusional beliefs to form in the first place. Our beliefs, rather than being a spectrum that ranges from opinion to conviction based on evidence, are built on an entwined mixture of opinions, evidence-based beliefs, and delusions, all of which are interlocking and naturally resistant to new data and evidence.

Continue reading The Psychology of Belief: Hope vs. Reality